Isaac Newton

Newton, Isaac

English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (1642-1727). Autograph manuscript unsigned. no place. 4 pages. 4to (8 x 6 in.; 204 x 154 mm) on an uncut sheet of paper (watermarked posthorn hg | mc) folded to quarto, final 4 pages unwritten and unopened, 38 lines to a full page, with a few deletions and emendations, written in Latin.
$ 242,663 / 225.000 € (78406)

A collection of alchemical quotations copied from a wide variety of carefully identified printed sources, demonstrative of Newton’s careful reading.  Many quotations are from Michael Maier’s Septimana philosophica  published in Frankfurt in 1620, of which Newton owned a copy (Harrison 1046), although its whereabouts are not known. Maier’s Symbola aureae mensae duoodecim nationum,  Frankfurt, 1617 is also quoted (Newton’s copy is now in Jerusalem=Harrison 1048).  There is also one reference to his Hieroglyphica.

 Michael Maier (1566-1622) was a physician at the court of Rudolph II, who after Rudolf’s death in 1612 left Prague for Britain, where he published numerous books to support the truth of alchemy and hermetic philosophy, at a time when charlatans (as satirized by Ben Jonson in The Alchemist) abounded. Many of his works are illustrated with fine engravings. One has the impression that these sententiae have been carefully composed. The very first is a quotation from Turba philosophorum (possibly cited from the edition in Artis auriferae  of 1610), bolstered, as it were, by a quotation definitely taken from volume IV of Theatrum chemicum  (pp. 902 & 903) from the text Lilium tanquam de spinis erutum. The paragraph on page 3 beginning “Infantis philosophici parentes et nutrix (gold, silver & mercury [symbols])” has a build-up of references beginning with the Tabula smaragdina and Grasshoff, with precise references to the last line on p. 312, followed by Lull, Maier, and Laurentius Ventura. The different color of the ink here may suggest references added subsequently. Similarly the quotations from Artephius, Flamel, and Rosinus, as well as the last one “Liber Abre in Musaeo hermetico p. 33x” show us quite clearly how Newton moved around his books. Artephius and Flamel (generally spelled Flammel by Newton, who owned the 1624 English edition) belong together (cf. Harrison 1309, 1310, a French compilation, Philosophie naturelle de trois anciens philosophes, that abstracted both).  Rosinus is cited as printed in Artis auriferae  I, pp. 158-204, and the quotation from “Liber Abre” is from the top of p. 334 in the 1677 Musaeum hermeticum.  This manuscript must therefore postdate 1677 (at least in part) and probably dates from the 1680s..

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